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You are here: Home > Advice > Electric Guitar Basic's

Electric Guitar Basic's

Electric Guitar Anatomy

Body Style:

Electric guitars come in three basic body styles: solid-body, semi-hollow, (or semi-solid) and hollow-body.

When sustain, loud amplification and lots of effects are required, solid-body guitars are a good choice. Semi-hollow body guitars are useful when the more of the acoustic sound of the guitar with high levels of amplification are needed. Hollow body, or "jazz" guitars provide the acoustic sound of the guitar but can be prone to feedback at high levels of amplification.


Choosing what type of neck your guitar should have is dependent on the size of your hand: necks come in a number of shapes such as C-shaped, thin, wide-thin, etc.

Scale Length:

Scale length influences both the tonal quality of the notes produced and the tension of the string at a particular pitch. Scale length refers to the vibrating length of the string, which is determined by the distance between "nut" and the bridge "saddle." Fret placement (see Intonation) is a ratio based on scale length so longer scales have more distance between frets.

Most modern electric guitars employ one of two commonly used scale lengths: the "Gibson" scale, at 24-5/8" gives the Les Paul its round attack and thick bass, and the "Fender" scale at 25-1/2", which gives the Strat its clear, cutting quality. A third scale length, the 25" scale, as used by Paul Reed Smith among others produces a distinctive tone, and is not a compromise between "Gibson" and "Fender".


Intonation determines whether or not the notes play in tune as you move up the neck. If the distance between the frets (usually above the 12th fret) is off, the guitar will be incapable of playing in tune and therefore useless as a recording or performance instrument.

Set Neck vs. Bolt on:

Some people believe that a set neck has better sustain than a neck that is bolted on. This may have an effect on which instrument you choose, but if you want a Fender Stratocaster, the neck is bolt-on, period. Conversely, if you choose a Gibson Les Paul, it comes with a set neck.

Number of Frets:

Most electric guitars come with 22 frets, however, if you like to play in the high register, a 24-fret neck will give you the full octave above the twelfth fret.


With electrics, the type of finish does not affect sound as much as it does on acoustics, but you needn't worry about it in either case. Guitar makers take this into account when they build the instrument.


There are two main types of bridges for guitars; tremolo bridge and stoptail bridge. The tremolo bridge (or whammy bar) allows you to "dive" or bend all the strings at once, (good for Metal styles) but they can throw strings out of tune. The stoptail bridge is more stable as far as tuning is concerned and because it is fixed into the body, some players feel that it provides more sustain than the tremolo bridge, which "floats" above the body.

Most guitars have two pickups, one close to the neck, which provides a thicker sound, and one close to the bridge, which produces a more treble "twangy" sound. A 3-position switch allows you to choose between pickups or blend them. Some guitars have a five-position switch, which blends the pickups and changes their phase relationship to produce "glassy" tones. A third, or middle pickup is also available on some guitars for more sound blending options.

Tuning machines:

The type of tuning machine your guitar has is very important. This is what allows you to fine tune and hold pitch. Enclosed machine heads resist rust and airborne corrosives, and therefore don't require as much maintenance or replacement as open tuning machines.


Choice of woods naturally affects the tone and weight of a guitar, but so do a number of other factors. This is all taken into account by the intentions of the designer. More expensive woods don't necessarily mean a better sounding guitar. The important question for you is whether you like the sound of the instrument. Wood: